I feel obliged to issue a public health warning before I go any further with this post. This dessert is not for the faint-hearted and certainly not for anyone on a calorie-controlled diet. It’s extremely rich and something of a colossal beast, easily serving 12 to 14 people, so only make this if you’ve got the man, woman and child-power to tackle it, and be sure not to feed them too much beforehand. Continue reading “Chocolate cheesecake with blackberry cream”
When I put out a call a month or so ago for people to send in their favourite family recipes for the Care to Cook recipe challenge I had absolutely no idea what kind of response to expect. Care to Cook is a challenge I set up with a fostering and adoption charity I work with called TACT in order to promote their cookbook, which they’re selling to support adopted children and their families.
But I had nothing to worry about. You lot rose to the challenge splendidly, supplying a fantastic assortment of family favourites, both savoury and sweet. The task set was to suggest a dish you would cook to welcome someone into your family home. For many children in care, family meals are simply something they are not used to. Each and every dish submitted into the challenge is one I know would make a vulnerable child or young person feel special, valued and welcomed.
Before I announce the winner, here are each of those delicious entries in turn. Warning – this list is guaranteed to make you hungry!
First in was this tasty little number from Under The Blue Gum Tree, which looks far superior to its McDonald’s namesake: Homemade Fillet O’ Fish and “Chips”. The fillet is served in lovingly prepared carrot and cumin bread rolls, with potato skins covered in paprika and cayenne pepper, and some salsa and soured cream on the side. Now, who could resist that?
Next we have French Madeleines from Crêpes Suzettes. These pretty little cakes look so tempting and perfect for goûter, the snack French kids have at around 4pm. I think my children must be a bit French as they are always starving when they come home from school too!
For Reluctant Housedad, what to cook for this challenge was a bit of a no-brainer. It had to be his Peanut Butter and Salted Caramel Chocolate Cheesecake. Doesn’t it look incredible? I love puddings that combine sweet and salty and absolutely anything that contains peanut butter, so this is going straight to the top of my must-bake list.
My fabulous mother Cheryl suggested this next dish Hokkien Mee, which she remembers eating as a girl growing up on the Malaysian island of Penang. It’s a hot and spicy noodle dish, featuring both meat and seafood, common in many South East Asian dishes. It’s a little different to the Singapore version but, as my Mum would tell you, much more delicious!
Karen from Lavender & Lovage offers up these ‘frugal but comforting’ Stuffed Tomatoes with Herbs and Oats, which I think look incredibly tasty and very satisfying. It’s a real family-favourite in Karen’s house; her daughter loved eating this when she was little, and still does now she is all grown up!
My little sister Elly surprised me with her cooking skills with this next entry, her Nonya Chicken Curry from Malaysia. I just assumed she would submit a recipe for something sweet and sticky – she’s a great baker you see. But no, this is her curry dish that got a big thumbs up from her boyfriend’s dad. He’s from Malaysia himself and apparently not an easy man to impress!
Pasta and Pesto Sauce is our next entry which comes from A Trifle Rushed. Pesto is always a favourite in our house but I must admit it’s normally a meal-in-a-hurry using dried pasta and jarred sauce. Here Jude and her daughter lovingly make fresh pasta by hand and blend their own pesto in a pestle and mortar. I bet it tastes incredible; it certainly looks wonderful.
Louisa at Chez Foti now lives in the French Pyrenees and likes to cook classic French dishes whenever friends and family come to visit. This Boeuf en Daube is a particular favourite and I can see why; it looks so sumptuously satisfying! It’s one of those meals you can prepare in advance and leave to slow cook in the oven, so that your visitors arrive to the most glorious aromas emanating from the kitchen. Yum!
When I received this next entry from Lavender & Lovage for Yorkshire Season Pudding with Herbs I had to try it straight away. We had it for brunch one Sunday morning, and it was perfect with our bacon, eggs and beans. I like the fact this is a traditional family recipe, and one that Karen’s grandmother used to make. I think it might just become a tradition for our family too.
Spinach and Bacon Macaroni Cheese from Sian at Fishfingers for Tea is next up. Macaroni cheese is the ultimate in satisfying comfort food and I do love this version, beefed up with tasty bacon and spinach and finished with slices of tomato and crunchy cheesy breadcrumbs on top. Another great dish for preparing in advance and popping in the oven just before your visitors arrive.
My Nana Barbara sent in two dishes for her entry: Courgette Bake followed by Vanilla Cream Terrine. She says the courgette bake works well both as a starter and as main course served with large hunks of crusty bread. My Nana is fantastic in the kitchen and as a kid I would love staying with her and Grandad as it always meant getting to eat lots of lovely cakes and pies.
Chicken Basquaise is the delicious entry from Helene at French Foodie Baby. She warns that it might differ from traditional recipes but that’s what she likes so much about her mother’s cooking; she cooks from the gut. I love the way Helene relives her food memories through her blog and brings them into the present day as she cooks for her little boy Pablo.
This Strawberries and Cream Birthday Cake comes from my step-mum Sue and is the cake she bakes every June to celebrate my twin sisters’ birthday. I’ve always been very jealous of them having a summer birthday when strawberries are in season! Now wouldn’t you like this for your birthday cake each year?
The final entry is one of mine: Hainanese Chicken Rice. It’s a dish I loved to eat when I was a little girl on trips to Penang with my mum and little sister. I had no idea how to make it so I turned to members of my Chinese-Malaysian family for a helping hand, and my Aunty Lorene and Cousin Sisi did the honours by providing this recipe. How would I ever survive without Facebook?!
There you have it – a fine collection of family recipes if ever I saw one! But there can only be one winner in the Care to Cook challenge, and the unenviable task of selecting a winner was given to 15-year-old Josh, who lives with one of TACT’s foster carers in the South West of England.
Josh says it was a very difficult decision to make and he sat deliberating – and salivating! – over the list for quite some time and really struggled to choose just one winner. He really liked the look of both the Penang Hokkien Mee and the Strawberries and Cream Birthday Cake, but in the end it was the Peanut Butter and Salted Caramel Chocolate Cheesecake from the Reluctant Housedad that won his vote.
So a huge congratulations to Keith at the Reluctant Housedad for your fabulous entry, which Josh found he simply couldn’t resist! As winner of the Care to Cook family recipe challenge he will receive a copy of TACT’s Care to Cook recipe book, signed by the charity’s celebrity patron Lorraine Pascale.
And thank you to everyone who has taken the time to share their favourite family recipes, helping to raise awareness of this very worthwhile charity, which is working so hard to improve the lives of children and young people across the UK who haven’t had the best starts in life. More information of the work of TACT is available on their website.
Happy Fourth of July! Yes, it’s American Independence Day and so in honour of our cousins over the pond, here is my recipe for a baked American-style cheesecake.
I adore baked cheesecakes – the way the top is all cakey, soft and crumbly while the inside is sumptuously creamy and quite decadent. Matched with the crunchy biscuit base and sweet fruit on the side, what more could you ask for in a pud?
American-style baked cheesecake
For the biscuit base
75g digestive biscuits, crushed
40g butter, melted
35g Demerara sugar
For the cheesecake
45g butter, softened
150g caster sugar
400g cream cheese
20g corn flour
Pinch of salt
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs, separated
130ml double cream, lightly whipped
Fresh berries to serve
Preheat oven to 160°C/gas mark 3.
Lightly grease a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin and line with greaseproof paper.
Put the crushed biscuits, butter and Demerara sugar into a bowl and mix well. Spread over the base of the tin and press down well. Place in the fridge for half an hour to set.
Into a large bowl measure the butter, caster sugar, cream cheese, corn flour, salt, lemon zest, vanilla extract and egg yolks and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth. Then fold in the lightly whipped cream.
Whisk the egg whites until stiff and then carefully fold into the cheesy mixture using a large metal spoon.
Pour the cheese mixture onto the chilled biscuit base.
Bake in the oven for about an hour until set. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in there for another hour to cool.
If like me you have an Aga, then bake in the roasting oven on the shelf on the floor with the cold plain shelf on the second set of runners. Bake for 20 minutes until the top is pale golden. Transfer the cold plain shelf to the middle of the simmering oven and place the cheesecake on this. Bake for another 20-30 minutes. Thanks to Mary Berry for the Aga baking advice!
Remove the cheesecake from the oven and cool in the tin. Carefully run a knife around the edge, lift out from the tin and remove the greaseproof paper.
Serve with your favourite berries – I went for strawberries – I am eating it in Britain after all!
Food is such a fantastic conversation starter the world round, isn’t it? As a freelancer I’m constantly in and out of different work locations getting to know new groups of people, and I find that food is always a common denominator. Or maybe it’s just me?
Anyway, I’m working for a few months in the marketing team at Bath Spa University where I sit next to the lovely Stef and we talk food quite a bit. It was Stef who passed on this easy peasy idea for livening up manky (or was it skanky?) Digestive biscuits lurking in the bottom of the tin: turn them into strawberry cheesecake biscuits – genius!
That same day, knowing I didn’t actually have any biscuits (neither manky nor skanky) at home, I stopped off on my way back to pick some up just so I could give it a go. I opted for Hob Nobs instead of Digestives as I thought these might be more reminiscent of the cheesecake base.
Stef wasn’t wrong – these really are good. A great way to use up old biscuits or a ridiculously simple sweet treat when you don’t have the time or energy to make a proper pudding. And they take only a minute to make.
No recipe required here – simply take your biscuit of choice and spread with cream cheese, then top with strawberry jam or any other flavour jam you happen to have at your disposal. My girls, Jessie and Mia, made them with me after tea and they were a big hit all round.
I’m only at Bath Spa for a couple more weeks, so I’ll need to get Stef to share the rest of her cheat’s repertoire with me before I move on…